The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) this week lifted the lid on Namibia’s link to dirty money after it red-flagged an astronomical N$17 billion as suspected proceeds of illegal activities. Of the N$17 billion, a massive N$10 billion is linked to the Fishrot scandal, which has led to the arrest of former Cabinet ministers Sacky Shanghala and Bernhard Esau as well as businessmen.The latest N$17 billion of potential proceeds of crime is the biggest in years considering the watchdog flagged N$6.3 billion and submitted 338 intelligence information products to local and international stakeholders for investigation during the 2018/2019 financial year.
In the same period, FIC intercepted and intervened in 25 suspicious financial transactions valued at close to N$472 million. There is no doubt the latest developments place the country at high-risk for illicit cash flows and this has a massive impact on our economy. The goal of curbing corruption and money laundering is a national issue, which is yet to be achieved. But there have been hits and misses and concerns remain, especially on the part of investigators who find it extremely difficult to carry out their work. This is often attributed to uncooperative jurisdictions and limited capacity at hand to carry out thorough and comprehensive investigations into alleged activities of corruption. For instance, Anti-Corruption Commission lead investigator into the Fishrot scandal Andreas Kanyangela last week admitted there was a lack of cooperation from a number of countries and jurisdictions, including Angola, whose authorities are refusing to assist their Namibian counterparts in ongoing investigations. During testimony in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court, Kanyangela said from a total of nine jurisdictions under investigation, only two have cooperated thus far. Kanyangela revealed that only Norway and Iceland have been cooperative. This is a typical example how odds are heavily stacked against those at the frontline of combating corruption.
An institution like FIC serves an important function. However, it has no law enforcement investigative powers. Its powers are limited to the receipt, analyses and dissemination of intelligence products, which alerts competent authorities on criminal conduct by natural persons, legal persons or both.
The FIC also assists in ongoing investigations through financial analytical work, when requested to do so by the competent authorities. It is therefore crucial that anti-graft bodies like the ACC, police, offices of the Ombudsman and the Prosecutor General are given the necessary support in performing their mandates without fear or favour. There must be strong cooperation between law enforcement agencies and tax authorities in order to effectively tackle the ills of corruption and the illicit flows involving dirty money. It would also be a sad day when undue political interference in the functioning of these bodies is the order of the day.
We take note of the institutional and legal mechanisms locally in place to prevent such from happening. However, we are not satisfied with the level of support some of these critical institutions are receiving in order to enable them to help root out the scourge of corruption. There is no doubt corruption drives illicit flows because tax evasion by multinational companies, drug trafficking, smuggling and bribery remain the main conduits. The brutal reality is that greater economic inequalities in resource-rich African countries is exacerbated by illicit money leaving the continent, which would have been used for poverty alleviation programmes as well as growing local economies by creating jobs and improving service delivery.